The Detective Returns

New Delhi

A rickety old tram makes its way through Kolkata's rainswept Maidan. People, grazing cattle and buildings amble through, as a young Byomkesh Bakshi leans out of the window and samples the sights absentmindedly. Graver concerns stew in his brilliant mind, the future of humankind amongst one of them. In a press meet as thoughtfully executed as his films, director Dibakar Banerjee introduced us to his Byomkesh Bakshi. He dressed him in a staid kurta, strategically placed him in a tram and let Kolkata's vintage charm do the rest. That his Byomkesh Bakshi is current Bollywood heartthrob Sushant Singh Rajput is almost incidental. The hero of the enterprise is clearly Bengali writer Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay's iconic detective. "I am aware of the various interpretations of this character. I know that everyone, from Satyajit Ray to Rituparno Ghosh, have created their own Byomkeshs. My Byomkesh is young, straight out of college and on the throes of something that he doesn't even have the vocabulary to describe. That's why he calls himself 'satyanveshi (the truth seeker)'," says Banerjee, who is directing the film under the Yash Raj Films banner.

In many ways, Byomkesh Bakshi is a prototypical figure of the eclectic world of Bengali detective fiction. A world that is inhabited by a strapping Charminar-smoking dude (Feluda), and a middle-aged physically challenged kakababu (uncle) who, ironically, hates being called a detective. The history of Bengali detective fiction, however, had a more conventional start in the early 20th century. In his book The Bhadralok as Truth-Seeker: Towards a Social History of the Bengali Detective, Gautam Chakrabarti notes how in the early Bengali detective movies such as Hana Badi (The Haunted House, 1952) and Chupi Chupi Ashe (He Comes in Stealth, 1960), the detectives not only dress in pucca sahebi (perfect western) attire, down to their starched waistcoats, patent leather shoes and the pipes, but also mirror the mannerisms of their Anglo-European archetypes.

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